Monday, April 2, 2012

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.  Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana starts with a dedication "To ALL THOSE WOMEN whose stories will never be told" and ends with the story of one woman who defied the odds and started a business during wartime.   During the occupation of the Taliban in Afghanistan and their fight for control of the country, all the rights of women were banned.  It was against the law for women to laugh, wear nail polish, go to school or to be seen outside of the home unless accompanied by a male relative.  Women were forbidden to talk to men unless they were relatives and daily life became very difficult because women were not allowed to work outside of the home.

Kamila knew she had to do something or her large family would starve.  Her father and brother had fled to Iran and left only one 13 year old brother to run errands and be the "Male relative" for Kamila and her 5 sisters still at home.  So Kamila asks her older sister Malika to teach her to sew and Kamila in turn teaches her sisters to sew and they sell their designs at the market.  As Kamila's business takes off she is able to hire other women in the neighborhood and then create even more business opportunities and so on.

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana proves that women are amazing, powerful, and resilient human beings that have the will to survive, take care of their families and prosper, against all odds.  This book makes me want to stand up and applaud the amazing women of Afghanistan for their strength and will.  Kamila's story is very inspiring and gives me the impression that women everywhere can perpetuate change in the world if given the chance.  The Dressmaker of Khair Khana celebrates the modern working woman.

"Money is power for women," Kamila said.  "If women have their own income to bring to the family, they can contribute and make decisions."  (Pg 235)  Money changes lives, help families and opens doors to opportunities.  It is so important to educate women.  We are lucky as American women to have a free education and the freedom to choose a career and more.

Lemmon wrote The Dressmaker of Khair Khana as part of her MBA degree for Harvard.  She wanted to find successful women business owners in wartime countries.  We always hear about the great deeds of men during wartime but rarely do we hear a positive story surrounding women during a war.  This is a positive story about women who made a difference in their small community near Kabul, Afghanistan and taught others how to help themselves. 

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